On the trail of ‘Cooinda “75” Beauty Street’

While walking the streets of Sunshine I found something odd – a sign reading ‘Cooinda “75” Beauty Street’. So what was this 45 year old sign for?

'Cooinda 75 Beauty Street' sign on Alice Street in Sunshine

Alice Street wasn’t the only one – I found another on Parsons Street.

'Cooinda 75 Beauty Street' sign on Parsons Street in Sunshine

And a third on Palmer Street.

'Cooinda 75 Beauty Street' sign on Palmer Street in Sunshine

On the hunt

Trove wasn’t much help – the only relevant hit was in the Dutch Australian Weekly, of all publications!

Klein Athene
MELBOURNE. Vic, 16 Maart

‘De Grieks sprekende bevolking van Melbourne is nu na Athene en Salonika ‘swerelds op twee na grootste’.

Aldus Albert J. Grassby, de gemeenschap zaken consulent van de federale regering tijdens de opening van het jaarlijkse Cooinda Festival in Sunshine.

But once translated, just led to more questions.

Little Athens
Melboune, 16 March

Melbourne’s Greek-speaking population is now the world’s third largest after Athens and Salonika.

Said Albert J. Grassby, the federal Commissioner for Community Relations at the opening of the annual Cooinda Festival in Sunshine

The ‘From the Archives’ series in the Brimbank & North West Star Weekly was a little more useful.

Sunshine Advocate
February 19, 1975

Plans are being completed for the first international-type Mardi Gras to be held in the city of Sunshine.

The Mardi Gras will be the highlight of the last day of the Cooinda Festival – the week-long people’s festival to be held in Sunshine next month.

This was stated today by Mr Mervyn Pentreath, organiser of the Grand Cooinda Procession and Cooinda Mardi Gras, both to be held in central Sunshine.

But led me to a dead end, at least on the online research front – Trove has only digitised the Sunshine Advocate newspaper as far as 1954, thanks to current copyright restrictions.

Getting somewhere

Luckily for me, some random on Facebook posted a selection of 1970s articles from the Sunshine Advocate only, including the Skyhooks performance at Skinner Reserve in Braybook.

And an article on the 1975 Cooinda Festival – which spanned an entire week from March 15 to 22.

But what about the ‘Cooinda “75” Beauty Street’ signs?

And an answer

I picked up a copy of Harvester City : the making of multicultural Sunshine by Olwen Ford, and got my answer.

People’s Festival

In a form of community action, two people’s festivals in 1974 and 1975 – ‘Cooinda’ festivals – provided a focus for local people to take part in celebrating their local area and its culture. The festivals were like, and yet unlike, earlier festivals. Cr Vic Parsons reported that 20,000 people took part in Cooinda 1975, . The street competition alone would have involved a few thousand people.

1974 was the initial Cooinda festival.

Cooinda, 1974

Early in January 1974 the Sunshine Advocate, together with Sunshine Council, launched a ‘Name the Festival Competition’. There was a great response and within three weeks the Advocate was announcing the winning name: ‘Cooinda’, an Aboriginal word meaning happy place. The Mayor, Cr Vic Parsons, held a special meeting to discuss preparations and a number of community groups became involved.

In some ways it as the usual sort of local event, with a Cooinda baby contest, a ‘Miss Cooinda’ quest, art and crafts activities. a poster competition for children, a procession.

Yet for the first time, there was ‘a special call for migrants to be part of the festival’. A big naturalisation ceremony was to be the climax of an intense week of activities. This was a festival that proudly asserted the city’s large and diverse multicultural population. The festival was culturally diverse in other ways with ‘music of every different kind’, displays on the district’s history, a Cooinda vintage train, school children working on a mural and a fly past by the RAAF. Al Grassby, Federal Minister for Immigration, spoke about Sunshine’s diversity at the naturalisation ceremony when 101 migrants became Australian citizens.

Followed by an even bigger one the next year.

Cooinda, 1975

The Cooinda festival ’74 was such a success, with many thousands attending, that it was decided to hold the festival annually. Cr Vic Parsons, who chaired the organising committee, explained the reason: “The many ethnic groups who live in Sunshine found there was a great deal in Cooinda that reminded them of the festivals of their native lands”. The Mayor in March 1975, Cr Jack Tighe, described the Cooinda proposal as “a means of bringing Sunshine people together in a spirit of involvement, of integrating all the various ethnic groups, the new arrivals in our city”.

The Sunshine Advocate stressed that all ideas for events and activities had come from Sunshine people. The festival, opened by Al Grassby, began with a circus performance and a midday-to-midnight rock concert. On the week’s program were reunions, displays, concerts by choral and ethnic groups, a grand procession with five bands, marching girls, a Cobb & Co coach and an array of floats. The floats were a visual expression of strong elements in the local community a ‘Star of the Sea’ float and a Roman soldier on horseback from the Maltese community, and an unusual float made up of collected rubbish, crested by the Sunshine Beautification Group.

Before the 1975 festival, the Beautification Group in conjunction with Cooinda, organised competition for the best street of gardens in Sunshine’. Winning streets earned a blue sign and individual homeowners got prizes.

But no subsequent festivals were held, despite an attempted revival in 1987 – the only trace being a handful of 45 year old street signs.

Further research

The VU Research Repository is the home of the ‘Sunshine Westdoc holdings‘, which includes correspondence from the Cooinda Management Committee.

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3 Responses to “On the trail of ‘Cooinda “75” Beauty Street’”

  1. Andrew says:

    Angry Anderson with hair!!!

  2. Stirling says:

    Did you stumble across any idea why the festival wasn’t continued in your research. Seems crazy something that was obviously quite big in 75 just stopped.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Unfortunately I didn’t find an answer to it – maybe something eventful happened at the 75 festival, and it scared off the organisers? The Sunshine Advocate might have something about the reason, but the digitised editions end at 1954.

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